By Bryn Huntpalmer
More than ever before, converting to green practices in self-storage is as much a smart business move as it is an ethical stance. Companies that are willing to shrink their carbon footprint can save money while building trust with customers. Though initially there may be financial sacrifices that affect your bottom line, the right kind of changes will ultimately increase prosperity and improve your public image. Here are 10 ways to “go green.”
1. Perform a Commercial Energy Audit
You can take wild stabs at cutting your energy use and hope for the best, but it’s hard to patch up holes without knowing where they are. You may throw away money to fix an issue that isn’t much of a problem, while the culprit air leak or inefficient HVAC system gets off the hook. Performing an energy audit will help determine your energy weaknesses and how best to allocate resources for improvements. Even if you’re not yet sold on the idea that going green will save money, an energy audit will show where you can shave costs.
2. Add Motion-Sensor Lights
You want your facility to be well-lit and safe for customers at any time, but lighting empty hallways and units can lead to quite a bit of wasted energy. Motion-sensor lights solve this problem. In addition, using LEDs will ensure your bulbs use less energy and require less frequent replacement. There’s no downside to automating your lights and updating to more efficient bulbs.
3. Use Seasonal Climate Control
Your customers are protective of their belongings, and with reason. Shielding their personal possessions from heat and cold is essential. But there’s no reason to waste energy to heat or cool a storage space during a season of stable temperatures. Consider installing an energy-efficient system that only kicks in when the temperature rises or falls to an extreme degree.
4. Install Solar Panels
Once you’ve cut your energy load by making your facility more energy-efficient, consider installing solar panels. Because of their simple architecture and few obstructions (i.e., tall trees), most self-storage facilities have a solar-friendly layout. With a smart setup, you can produce more energy than your facility uses. Depending on local and utility regulations, you may be able to sell the excess clean energy you’ve produced back to the grid and earn profit.
5. Use Low-VOC Paints and Finishes
Businesses tend to focus on energy efficiency because it saves money, but there are other important aspects to being green. Most building finishes and paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which lower indoor air quality and pose health and environmental risks. If your facility is full of VOCs and gets little ventilation, the toxic vapors will permanently attach themselves to customers’ belongings. Instead of getting the standard products for your property, look for low- or no-VOC products.
6. Use Green Cleaning Products
Cleaning products are full of harsh chemicals that are harmful to the environment and human health. There aren’t always strict regulations governing disclosure of these chemicals to the public. Ammonia, phosphorous and other chemicals wash down the drain and negatively impact the environment. Thankfully, there are many effective green-cleaning products your company can use to keep facilities sparkling clean. Go the extra mile and use organic soaps and cleansers.
7. Incentivize Clean Commutes
Reward employees who find ways of getting to work besides driving their own car solo. Set up a company carpool program and promote other alternative methods, such as the bus or local subway. Make your work start and end times flexible so staff can take public transportation without worrying about punitive measures for minor tardiness.
8. Have Green Office Parties
The trash waste created by a company event can add up. However, if you make it a priority, you can cut down on waste in almost every aspect of event planning, from choosing food that’s locally sourced and responsibly packaged to renting pop-up recycling and compost bins. Avoid plastic and paper in favor of reusable or compostable tableware. Avoid pre-packaged products, such as bottled water or individually wrapped snacks.
9. Place Plants in the Office
Plants take in carbon dioxide and other gases from the air and release oxygen. They literally clean the air, which means placing them around the office can reduce the circulation of harmful chemicals from paints, finishes and other sources of toxins. They can even make your employees healthier.
10. Unplug Unused Devices
Leaving a printer plugged in all day every day probably doesn’t cost your business much. But add a few dozen electronic devices to the mix, and these so-called “energy vampires” may be sucking up more power than you think. In fact, devices that stay plugged in all the time can account for up to 10 percent of your energy bills, even if you turn them off.
An energy auditor can give you more detailed advice about the exact changes your company needs to make. When it comes to hiring eco-friendly contractors and buying green products, investigate the validity of “green” claims so you make decisions that truly help your business and the earth.
Bryn Huntpalmer lives in Austin, Texas, where she currently works as editor-in-chief of home- and business-improvement website Modernize, which aims to empower property owners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big projects with confidence.